"A lot of architects tend to make up their own words," says architect Evan Hall. "They're always trying to find the new word to describe a new way of generating space, so it's really hard to kind of narrow it down to a few we use a lot."
Today we continue our series explaining unusual words and phrases in the arts by looking at the language of architecture.
Hall's own style of practicing architecture involves making foam-core models of conceived structures and spaces, which helps avoid having to coin a lot of descriptive words to conjure an imagined building. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in architecture and worked for a year in Japan before getting a Fulbright to study architecture in Korea, where he worked in architecture and urban planning.
Evan Hall (at right) presents a model of a proposed structure while working as an architect at Sejima and Nishizawa Architects Associates in Tokyo. (photo courtesy Evan Hall)
Hall is now back in Minnesota and is preparing for the next chapter in his architecture career, and he recently shared a number of interesting terms from his profession.
A building that's described as being tectonic is one where steel or wood framing and other devices are used to support the structure, where the push and pull of physical elements is evident.
Tom Fisher, the dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, says the Marquette Plaza building in Minneapolis -- with its transparent suspension-bridge support system -- is a good example of a tectonic building.
Hall says stereotonic is a good counterpoint to tectonic, insofar as a stereotonic building is one where the primary structure consists of limestone or granite, without the aid of secondary materials or structures to keep it standing. Because so many buildings combine stereotonic and tectonic elements, Hall says it is difficult to classify buildings as exclusively one or the other.
Hall says the Minneapolis City Hall (built 1904) may appear stereotonic, but it has steel and wood structures on the inside to help support it.
An axonometric drawing is a three-dimensional drawing that architects make where every line is measureable. "If you were to see a perfect cube in an axonometric drawing, you would be able to go in and measure every line and they would all be the same," Hall says. "In a perspective drawing, however, the lines start to get distorted a little bit."
The material that is put up over an exterior wall is called cladding. It can be wood, metal, stone, vinyl ... the most important thing is that cladding is waterproof.
The UBS Forum at Minnesota Public Radio is covered in sheet-metal cladding.
A wall that doesn't provide any structural support to a building but keeps out the elements or separates interior spaces is called a curtain wall. Such walls are called "curtain walls" because, like window curtains, they hang from a supporting framework.
Similar to a mechanical pencil, a leadholder is a drawing tool into which an architect can insert lead or plastic pieces of various softness and weight. "Sometimes you can have a whole book of different types of pencils that you can use for different line weights," Hall says. "The line weights are extremely important when making a drawing."
According to Hall, the reason line weights are so important is because the thickness of a line weight connotes the architectural significance of a drawn feature. "All architectural drawings are abstractions of something that is designed to be crafted in reality," he says. "Line weights in drawings give hierarchy to an idea."
This sounds like a specific type of rounded detail, but a French curve is actually a tool that architects use when drawing plans. "It's a plastic or metal stencil that has curves on the inside and outside," Hall explains, "and pretty much any type of curve that you need to draw in an architectural drawing, you can get off the French curve in combination with a compass or a straight edge."
When architects need to make a quick sketch of a building detail, whether from a paper plan or an autocad rendering, they'll lay a thin piece of vellum over the plan and trace the detail onto it. This thin sheet of tracing paper is called bumwad ... and yes, the name comes from exactly what one might suspect. "It looks kind of like a cheap toilet paper," Hall laughs. "I'm pretty sure you could just use it for that purpose!"
Evan Hall at his desk; in his right hand is a leadholder; the thin yellow paper is bumwad. (photo courtesy Evan Hall)
Visit State of the Arts next week, when we look at words from film and video.
Posted at 9:08 AM on March 22, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: News and reviews
'Fibers. Leaves. Faces.' opens at the Art Institutes International Minnesota
This week the school is celebrating the 2011 winter graduating class from the Bachelor of Fine Arts program in photography.
- Coco Mault, City Pages
Sally Awards go to a variety of visionaries
This year's awards, handed out Monday at the Ordway, honored leaders in the arts, education and culture in Minnesota.
- ROHAN PRESTON, Star Tribune
Ordway's Sally Awards recognize creativity and artistryFive winners of the Sally Ordway Irving Awards were announced Monday night.
- Chris Hewitt, Pioneer Press
Don't be a hack: Writing political satire with Lizz Winstead
Winstead, who is a native to Minnesota and has been back for several months working on a book, was offering a course in writing political satire. About 30 students registered, including yours truly, and spent a good portion of the day in the basement of Java Jacks coffee shop in south Minneapolis.
- Max Sparber, MinnPost.com
'State Fair Affair' in NYC: good will, beer -- and Franken
At some point during the "Minnesota State Fair Affair" Sunday afternoon, I had to remind myself that I was still in Brooklyn.
- Dylan Dawson, MinnPost.com
'My Run' Documentary follows Minnesotan's run from here to Atlanta -- the equivalent of 75 marathons in a row
"My Run" is not a great documentary, but its shortcomings are overcome by a Minnesotan's surprising and grueling story.
- Chris Hewitt, Pioneer Press
Snow or no snow, "Cold Weather" is something to relish
For the first time in a quite a while, a plausible mystery that never feels far-fetched and rings true from its opening shot of rain thumping against the window.
- Jim Brunzell III, TC Daily Planet
Shoveldance get set for release of Second Banana
Four plus years after they debuted the Hot Bananas EP, St. Paul's Shoveldance is getting set to release their first full-length: Second Banana in early summer.
- Loren Green, City Pages
Owl City and Big Boi collaborate on new record
Apparently Owl City's next record is going to feature some sort of collaboration with OutKast's Big Boi.
- Andrea Swensson, City Pages
'Little Shop' is no horror to watch
Mu Performing Arts has cast the retro cult musical with an Asian-American cast that lights up with charm.
- Graydon Royce, Star Tribune
Czech this out: Cather novel hits the stage in New Prague
Illusion Theater brought the drama to the small town and set off a community celebration.
- GRAYDON ROYCE, Star Tribune
Women who've killed
In a series of connected monologues, six women murderers talk about their lives and crimes.
- WILLIAM RANDALL BEARD, Star Tribune
Open Eye hosts five weeks of 'Women's Work'
Open Eye Figure Theatre turns its stage and lobby in south Minneapolis to women artists for a five-week series starting this weekend.
- Ed Huyck, City Pages
Theater: 'Little Shop' blooms anew Mu Performing Arts brings the cult classic to the stage with an all-Asian cast.
Think Mu Performing Arts is only about deep theater pieces that help explain the Asian-American experience? Think again.
- Kathy Berdan, Pioneer Press
Posted at 11:09 AM on March 22, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Video
Last week while talking to Kristin Makholm of the Minnesota Museum of American Art, I learned that for this summer's Northern Spark Festival, the MMAA is bringing a light installation by Jim Campbell to St. Paul. "Scattered Light" which is the subject of the first part of the above video, was a hit in Madison Square Park, where it was intalled for four months. It's comprised of 2,000 LED lights encased in standard lightbulbs. Viewed up close the installation lives up to its name, appearing as simply "scattered lights," but, viewed from a distance, you can actually see images of ghostly figures walking by. The grid of lights become a sort of photograph, with each bulb equalling one pixel. According to the MMAA, "Scattered Light" will be installed on June 4 and remain on view through July, emerging into brilliant view as dusk turns to night each day.
Sara Ochs as Audrey and Randy Reyes as Seymour in the Mu Performing Arts production of "Little Shop of Horrors."
Photos by Michal Daniel
Mu Performing Arts presents the cult classic "Little Shop of Horrors" at the Ritz Theater in Minneapolis through April 3. Thinking about seeing the show? Check out these excerpts of reviews below, or click on the links to read the full reviews.
Some day we will look back on these days as the golden era of Mu Performing Arts. That shouldn't assume some future collapse, but in years hence the mind will fondly recall that group of Asian-American actors who cemented Mu's place in the Twin Cities theater ecology.
This wistful mood is brought to you by Mu's delightful production of "Little Shop of Horrors," which opened Saturday at the Ritz Theater in northeast Minneapolis (and let it be said that the Ritz feels great as a venue for this show).
It's tempting to point at Randy Reyes, whose career has blossomed, as the reason for Mu's emergence. Reyes is a cuddly, lovable Seymour -- the nebbish who occupies the center of "Little Shop." Down on his fortunes, Seymour has nursed an oddball plant (with a taste for blood) to health and the resulting fame lifts the fortunes of his employer, Mushnick's Skid Row Floral Shop. Reyes' comic chops and timing have developed razor-sharp acuity, yet he retains an everyman charm.
To pin it all on Reyes, though, would ignore (speaking of charm) Sara Ochs as Audrey. Ochs shines as the fragile street girl who can't catch a break with men. Her previous work with Mu ("Flower Drum Song," "Walleye Kid") revealed a tender, sweet quality coupled with a lovely singing voice. Here, she loosens up her vocal chords -- particularly with "Suddenly Seymour" -- and we see another dimension. Ochs is the real deal.
...Lest there be any doubt, the work is unabashedly ludicrous, a knowingly absurd musical that derives endless mirth from unhinged eccentricity. Honoring that spirit of brazen bizarreness, Mu Performing Arts has launched an adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors at the Ritz Theater that thrives on quirkily macabre humor.
...Dedicated to presenting work from an Asian American cultural perspective, Mu Performing Arts doesn't initially seem a likely fit for Little Shop of Horrors. The original work, after all, designated roles to very specific character types; from a bubbly blond as Audrey to the trio of corner singers modeled after the African American girl groups of the 1960s. By using an all Asian American cast, however, Mu Performing Arts has not only defied stereotypes, but shown that richly realized characterizations mean more than surface appearances.
Directed with energetic wit by Jennifer Weir and supported by the melodic verve of musical director Denise Prosek, Little Shop of Horrors adheres closely to the original production. The most conspicuous difference relates to the setting, freshly imagined through the foggy lens of steampunk, a science fiction subgenre that incorporates archaic technology into more contemporary (often incongruent) worlds. While the setting makes for an intriguing diversion, the work's driving force remains the offbeat narrative and unexpectedly sympathetic characters.
...Mu Performing Arts' new adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors doesn't attempt to radically alter the work. Instead, the production serves as a reminder that an exceptionally talented cast and crew - regardless of specific ethnicity - hold the power to transcend a work's cultural assumptions. Seems like a lot to ask of a musical about a man-eating plant, but Mu Performing Arts achieves the task with a thoroughly entertaining mixture of lofty romance and ghoulish laughs.
Randy Reyes stars as the down-and-out florist Seymour Krelbourn and Sheena Janson portrays the famous man-eating plant, Audrey II in Mu Performing Arts production of "Little Shop of Horrors."
If you're in the mood to call out differences, you could note that Mu Performing Arts' production of "Little Shop of Horrors" features an Asian-American cast and that the role of homicidal houseplant Audrey II -- usually voiced by a deep-voiced male -- is played by a sultry femme fatale.
But if you're simply in the mood to enjoy a top-notch production of Howard Ashman's comedy-horror musical about a nerd, a beauty and a beastly plant, then nothing in the paragraph above matters.
Borrowing costume, setting and mood from the science-fiction subgenre known as steampunk, director Jennifer Weir announces immediately that her production of "Little Shop" will have a different look and feel: The raggedy costumes are earth-toned, gritty and anachronistic to the show's early-1960s setting. The sets are minimalistic and intentionally drab. And as famished flora Audrey II grows, her appendages are suggested by coils of foil-covered flexible ductwork.
...In many "Little Shop" productions, the performer singing the role of Audrey II is heard but not seen, hidden while stagehands manipulate the constantly growing botanical baddie. Here, Sheena Janson -- sporting a Medusa-meets-Miracle-Gro hairdo -- is prominent, and her bitchy, seductive and nicely sung performance affirms director Weir's decision to release the performer's light from its bushel.
... On balance... Mu's "Little Shop" is a terrific staging that acknowledges and honors the show's familiar history, even as it gamely, creatively and successfully subverts it.
In 1982, composer Alan Menken and lyrics and book writer Howard Ashman watched Roger Corman's deservedly obscure 1960 film (shot in two days) about a plant that noshes exclusively on fresh-killed human meat and decided that it could be the basis for an extremely funny musical. Whatever they had for dinner that day, I want some, because Little Shop Of Horrors, with simplistic but sturdy and tuneful classics like, "Suddenly, Seymour," "Dentist!" and "Feed Me" has over the years received thousands of productions. Menken and Ashman (who died in 1992) went on to become auteurs of Disney animation (The Littlest Mermaid, Aladdin, et al). But this musical has become a cult classic.
Mu offers up an all-Asian production. Which signifies...nothing. One notices the Asian-ness of the show, thinks about it for perhaps 5 seconds, and then, in the face of director Jennifer Weir's blazing exuberance and energy, forgets about it. Weir produces Little Shop on a small budget and the production feels a touch rough around the edges, but this only adds to its charm.
Luckily for everyone, the two leads, Randy Reyes and Sara Ochs, are marvelous. Reyes amazes: thrilling as the Peking Opera star in the Guthrie's M. Butterfly, he directed Mu's difficult WTF with understated intelligence. Here he's a natural, stumbling through the play with a charming Cheshire Cat smile. He plays Seymour with a befuddled and goofy dignity. His sweet tenor is perfect for the music.
And Ochs, wow. This performer has a depth and a quiet presence that makes it hard not to watch her constantly. Exquisite in last year's Flower Drum Song, Ochs's Audrey is, in equal parts, intelligent, masochistic, confused, sexy. And utterly in love with Seymour. Their duet, "Suddenly, Seymour" electrifies.
So, have you seen the show? If so, what did you think? Share your reiew in the comments section.
"By appreciating the darkness, when you design the light you create much more interesting environments that truly enhance our lives." - Lighting architect Rogier van der Heide
In under 17 minutes Rogier van der Heide manages to cover a lot of territory - from the inside of a typical office space to a view of earth from the universe, showing us how much light is wasted, never reaching its intended destination. Too much lighting, he argues, only serves to make us feel out of sorts.
Van der Heide argues that proper lighting, which allows for an interplay with darkness, can make us more alert, or help us sleep better. It can inspire us, or help us to feel at peace. Using examples drawn from art, architecture and theater, van der Heide shows how spotlighting, new LEDs, and ambient luminescence can all work together to create more beautiful spaces, while preserving our views of the night sky.